Wed | Feb 8, 2023

No catastrophe among Jamaican community as Ian rattles Florida

Published:Friday | September 30, 2022 | 12:09 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer
Homes inundated by floodwaters caused by Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida, as seen on Thursday.
Homes inundated by floodwaters caused by Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers, Florida, as seen on Thursday.

There have been no reports of loss of lives or significant property damage among the more than 300,000 Jamaicans living in Florida as Hurricane Ian struck the American state as a monstrous Category 4 system on Wednesday before weakening to a tropical storm while crossing the peninsula,

Oliver Mair, Jamaica’s consul general in Miami, told The Gleaner on Thursday that all initial reports to his office were that Jamaicans have largely escaped the wrath of the hurricane.

“There have been reports of flooding [and] loss of power, but so far, we are not hearing of any major damage to property or loss of lives,” he said.

Mair added that his office has been in constant contact with several Jamaicans and Jamaican organisations across the state, which have indicated minimal impact.

Hurricane Ian, packing winds of up to 155 miles per hour, slammed into the west coast of Florida on Wednesday afternoon, dumping inches of rain on Fort Myers, Naples, and other areas before moving across to central Florida, inundating Orlando and other places like Tampa, even though they were spared direct hits.

The hurricane knocked out power in several areas and strong storm surges hit some coastal areas.

“So far, I have not heard of any loss of lives among Jamaicans or any major property damage. Many people lost power and there has been flooding, but I am unable to say right now what is the extent of the damage,” Tampa resident Evie Larmond, who is president of the Caribbean Community Association, told The Gleaner.

“Many [Jamaican] students bunked with other students so they would not be alone during the hurricane. They were provided with certain necessities to ride out the storm,” Larmond said, adding that many senior Jamaican residents also moved in with relatives to ride out the storm.

In Palm Bay, Tony Dobson reported that he lost power during the heavy rains.

“We did not get much wind. Lots of rain, but not much flooding,” he added.

Jamaica Global Diaspora Council member for the US Southern region, Dr Allan Cunningham, had also not received reports of loss of lives or major property damage affecting Jamaicans.

Cunningham said that his backyard was transformed into a lake as the hurricane pummelled Florida, but his home was not damaged. He also lost power briefly.

He was also unaware of any damage done by tornadoes in the Broward County area.

The Reverend Dr Karen Green, the Democratic nominee for Congressional District 7 in the upcoming November midterm elections, reported no damage to her Orlando property although there was flooding in the area.

Sandra Fatmi in Central Florida said that Orlando experienced lots and rain and wind, which knocked out the power and resulted in major flooding.

“I have not heard of any major catastrophe among Jamaicans,” she told The Gleaner.

Another Jamaican in the Orlando area, Don Topping, said the weather system felled a few of his fruit trees, but there was no structural damage to his property. Cleveland Baker, a Jamaican in West Palm Beach, had a similar experience.

Over in Port Saint Lucie, Dawn Bloomfield, president of the Caribbean American Cultural Group, said everyone was doing fine.

Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday evening after emerging over the Atlantic Ocean. The National Hurricane Center predicts that it will make landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane Friday.